What more can Kane achieve at Tottenham? Goalscoring record would just remove another reason to stay

Harry Kane Tottenham 2022-23 HIC 16:9
The England captain is poised to become his club's all-time leading goalscorer, but the frustrated forward is more interested in trophies than records

The stage was set. The script was written. Harry Kane would derail Arsenal's title challenge on Sunday evening. With a penalty. In the last minute. To become Tottenham's all-time leading goalscorer.

At least, that was the dream for Spurs supporters. The reality proved a nightmare.

Arsenal coasted to an embarrassingly facile victory from a Tottenham perspective to move eight points clear at the top of the table. Spurs, meanwhile, sit fifth, five points off fourth spot.

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And with a trip to Manchester City to come on Thursday night, things could get a lot worse before they get any better.

Kane will still break the record, of course. He could even do it at the Etihad Stadium, and that would also be a nice narrative: a player making history at the home of the club he wanted to join in the summer of 2021.

And yet it would arguably feel a little bittersweet, certainly for Kane. At this stage of his career, he wanted to be winning trophies with City, not breaking records at Spurs, and he undeniably has more reason to regret the collapse of his proposed transfer to the Etihad than the Premier League champions.

Kane may well have proven a better fit for Pep Guardiola's fluid forward line than Erling Haaland, but the Norwegian is still scoring freely in spite of his worrying lack of touches during games.

Still, while City's interest in Kane ended 18 months ago, the transfer talk surrounding Tottenham's No.10 has started again. Only last week, Real Madrid were linked with a summer swoop for Kane in the Spanish press.

The feeling remains that the 29-year-old would much rather remain in England but, if he were to leave north London, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy would obviously prefer to sell the forward to a team outside of the Premier League.

And let's not forget, Kane's contract expires in 2024. If the frustrated forward pushes for a transfer this summer, Spurs won't find it quite so easy to turn down multi-million pound bids for their most prized possession this time around.

Harry Kane Tottenham 2022-23 GFX

It's also hard to know exactly how they could conceivably convince Kane to stay. Money isn't the motivating factor here – and, besides, he could earn much more elsewhere anyway. This is about ambition, and always has been.

At 29 years of age, Kane is something of an anomaly in the game: a proven world-class talent without any major trophies, and that stings. He wants to be winning Premier League titles – not Player of the Month awards. And he's not hiding that anymore either.

After being presented with the Premier League Player of the Year award in April 2021, he admitted, "As great as this is, I want to be winning the biggest team prizes. We're not quite doing that. So, it's bittersweet, but it is what it is..."

Of course, the subsequent appointment of Antonio Conte initially restored hope of a turnaround at Tottenham. The Italian is, after all, a proven winner and Kane revelled working under such a demanding coach. However, the problem with Conte has always been that he asks just as much of his employers as his players, which often leads to public criticism and sudden exits.

So, despite leading Spurs back into the Champions League this season, after completely turning around their 2021-22 campaign, Conte's future at the club is now shrouded in uncertainty after a succession of his infamous complaints about the strength of his squad.

Kane, meanwhile, has yet to agree to a contract extension and the obvious question is, why on earth would he extend his stay at Spurs when a manager he clearly admires is so openly questioning his employers' ambition in the transfer market?

Harry Kane Antonio Conte Tottenham GFX

Particularly when some clubs would jump at the chance to sign such a complete centre-forward. Manchester United and Bayern Munich are long-time admirers and rightly so: Kane would be a perfect fit for both. Madrid have arguably less need of his services but if they came calling, would he really say no?

Michael Owen, for example, never thought he'd leave Liverpool, but found it impossible to resist Real. "I didn't sleep for a week beforehand," he told GOAL of his 2004 move to Madrid. "And even on the drive to the airport, I was crying my eyes out, I don't mind telling you.

"You think you're gonna be a Liverpool player for life but then you think, 'Oh my God, it's Real Madrid – I'll regret this forever if I say no.' So, it was just one of those really tough, life-changing calls."

Francesco Totti was presented with the same dilemma a year earlier, and the Roma legend had made his mind up to move to the Santiago Bernabeu only for his family and friends to intervene.

"I consider that a great thing," he later told the Corriere dello Sport. "But at that moment I had pretty much decided [to leave]. I wasn't going to be leaving for a normal team, after all, but for the best in the world.

"So, it was the only club that I would have left Roma for, albeit with sadness in my heart. But it was a very odd time between me and the club, as some things weren't going the right way. I had asked for some specific things and they seemed to ignore my expectations."

Kane would certainly be familiar with that feeling of frustration. He has nothing other than records, individual accolades and runners-up medals to show for his time at Tottenham, which has featured one false dawn after another.

Of course, just like Totti, he has a strong bond with his hometown. "I'm from London, so growing up and having that local feeling, there is nothing better than playing for your local team, the ones you have been brought up around," he said back in 2021.

His situation is different to that of Totti, though, because the Italian didn't feel quite so desperate to leave his beloved Roma in search of silverware, as he strongly believed he could win further trophies at the Stadio Olimpico, which would have meant the world to him.

Indeed, he had already tasted Scudetto success, in 2000-01, and he was of the opinion that one league title with Roma was worth 10 elsewhere.

Francesco Totti Roma 2001 GFX

The Giallorossi, of course, haven't won Serie A since, but Totti was a part of two subsequent Coppa Italia triumphs, in 2007 and 2008.

“At the end of the day, I had everything I wanted: love and passion were more important to me than winning trophies elsewhere," Totti explained to Sky Sport Italia. "I gave 101 per cent for Roma, because I put Roma ahead of myself, personal issues and a private life. Roma was everything."

Is Spurs everything to Kane, though? His 2021 push to join City would suggest otherwise.

Kane has spoken on the record of his desire to break Jimmy Greaves' record at Spurs, but would it really be enough to satisfy his obvious ambition? He has the chance to end up being mentioned in the same breath as not only Totti, but also Paolo Maldini, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard and Carles Puyol – local lads who become iconic figures at the giant clubs with whom they shared a postcode.

But all of those players were at clubs capable of winning trophies. Can we really say the same of Spurs, particularly if Conte leaves? Their last piece of silverware was the 2008 League Cup.

So, Kane breaking the record at the Etihad wouldn't just be a cause for celebration for Tottenham fans; it would also be a cause for concern. It would remove yet another reason for him to stay at Spurs.

After all, what more could he possibly hope to achieve at a club teetering on the edge of yet another managerial crisis?